If you ask me, one of the best times to visit Rome is fall and early winter. If you are planning a trip to Rome in December be prepared to enjoy a fully festive atmosphere. Christmas markets, trees, and Nativity scenes all around are made even more cheerful by the colorful lights sprucing up the streets everywhere.
Whether you want to travel early in the month or towards the end of the year, our guide will help you organize your vacation with tips on what to pack, what to wear, and where you should book to avoid standing in line or finding fully booked hotels, restaurants, and landmarks.
If you want to spend December in Rome, you will need some preparation and planning. We hope our tips will be of help!
Don’t miss our extensive Rome travel guide for precious tips to plan your trip.
5 Reasons to visit Rome in December
- It’s cheaper. From international and domestic flights to Rome hotels, if you plan your trip to Italy in December instead of summer, you will certainly save good bucks.
- Summer heat is a far memory. No more sweating, panting and getting tired quickly. You will enjoy walking and if it starts to rain, you can always duck into a coffee shop or bar for a nice espresso shot and croissant.
- Less crowded. This is a big reason to visit Rome in December. You will find smaller lines than in summer at most landmarks, especially in museums and historical sites such as Castel Sant’Angelo or the Trajan’s Markets. Other major attractions such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are still very busy, and close to Christmas even more so. This is why I strongly recommend you book ahead your entry to these two places to avoid standing hours in line or even finding no available spots.
- Christmas makes it magical. It’s only normal that Christmas is a very busy time of the year in Rome. Between Christmas markets and trees, Nativity scenes set up in all the local churches, and bright street lights and decorations starting from December 8th, December is a fantastic festive time to visit Rome.
- New Year’s Eve is a big party. Whether you are planning to join a private party or public events organized for the occasion, New Year’s Eve is a big date in Rome and Italy in general. Every year in Rome, the local municipality organizes fireworks in the Colosseum and a public concert at the Circus Maximus. Over the last two years, a large selection of events, concerts, and performances took place from the night of December 31st all the way through January 1st. Many local celebrations on this occasion also happen in Piazza del Popolo.
Don’t miss our tips on the best things to do in Rome for Christmas.
The weather in Rome in December
The weather in Rome in December is pleasantly mild, similar to most of Spain in winter. Even though you might find some rainy days, it’s usually sunny or cloudy at most. In Rome, in winter it does rain quite a lot, but December goes out pretty mild.
Usually, the rainy days in the past years in December in Rome were an average of 9 days for the whole month. Even if you happen in a little more rainy period, you can also expect long dry breaks. December is usually less rainy than November.
How warm is it in Rome in December? December marks the shift between fall and winter, which officially starts on the 21st, the longest night of the year known as the winter solstice. The temperatures in December in Rome range between 13°C (55°F) the highest and 4°C (39°F) the lowest.
The beginning of December can show more autumn weather still, with warmer temperatures and maybe more rainy days.
Wondering if you should book your trip in the fall? Don’t miss our guide to visiting Rome in November.
Holidays in December in Rome
The biggest holidays in Rome and all of Italy December in Rome:
- December 8th is the Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception), a holiday devoted to the Virgin Mary. Schools and offices are closed, most shops and restaurants in the city center will be open, and from this day we set up the Christmas decorations, trees, and nativity scenes. Many Christmas markets will open on this day.
- December 25th is Christmas Day. Banks, post offices, police, local municipality, and all types of public and private offices will be closed. In the city center, many shops will be open, while in other districts suburban and even near the historic center but not so touristy, will close.
- December 26th is Boxing Day. In Italy, we celebrate Saint Stephen’s Day. Closures are the same as for Christmas, offices are closed and shops open only in tourist areas.
- December 31st is actually not a holiday. In fact, all shops and offices will be open, at least for half of the day. Probably some will close a little earlier to get ready for the celebrations for New Year’s Eve all around the city.
How long are the days in Rome in December?
December is the first month of the winter season, and on the 21st, there is the longest night of the year. This is known as the winter solstice and what in the Persian world is known and celebrated as Yalda.
At the beginning of December in Rome, you can expect the sun to rise around 7.15 am and set at 4.37 pm. Around mid-December, dawn is around 7.30 am and dusk is at 4.36 pm. Getting towards the end of the month, the sun rises between 7.10 and 7.14 am and sets at 4.40 pm.
On the winter solstice and after, the 21st and the 22nd of December, the sun rises at 7.32. am and sets at 4.38 pm. From now on, daylight starts to increase. At the end of the month, dawn is 7.36 am and dusk at 4.44 pm.
The daylight in Rome in December goes from around 9 hours and 20 minutes at the beginning of the month and a little more than 9 hours towards the end of the month when winter has already started.
What do to in December in Rome
Thanks to the pleasant weather, fewer crowds at historical landmarks, and season festivities, there are many things travelers can do in Rome in December. Here are some of our suggestions.
Chase Christmas markets
A big role in the Yuletide spirit in Rome is played by the many Christmas markets set up around the city’s main squares. From Piazza Mazzini in the Prati area to Piazza Navona to Piazza Risorgimento in the shade of the Vatican Walls, they sell anything you can think of.
In Piazza Navona you will mainly find toys, sweets and candies. However, even though this really is one of the most famous Christmas markets in Rome, in the recent years it has lost its charm and doesn’t really sell local artisan products. A few years ago, the local municipality, much to everyone’s surprise, has decided not to run this market, so we will regularly update as soon as we have the latest news.
Other markets sell also clothes and food products from all the Italian regions like in the stalls set up in Piazza Mazzini or handmade objects and decorations like in Piazza Risorgimento.
These markets are fantastic places for shopping. Whether you are looking for some gifts from Rome for your family and friends or something for yourself, here you can find plenty of nice options.
Go on a shopping spree
Apart from the Christmas markets, the shops of Rome in December are a feast for the eyes. The windows are shimmering with festive lights and colors and will lure you in to try new clothes and shoes, discover new jewelry and accessories collections, or explore local and regional food specialties.
Some of the best areas for shopping in Rome are Via del Corso in the city center, Via Cola di Rienzo in Prati, and Via dei Condotti and its back streets around Piazza di Spagna.
See the Christmas trees
While you will see Christmas trees around every corner and in many restaurants and even bars in Rome in December, the largest ones are in Piazza Venezia and in St. Peter’s Square.
The tree in Piazza Venezia is set up by Rome’s Council with the aid of some private sponsors, while the giant tree in St. Peter’s Square is usually donated to the Vatican by a different country every year.
Walk along the river Tiber
Strolling along the river and across the scenic bridges of Rome is a fabulous experience in every season, but with the colors of the month of December and the lights set up for the festivities reflecting on the water, the atmosphere becomes really magic.
Cross scenic bridges like Ponte Sant’Angelo connecting the Hadrian Mausoleum to the city center or Ponte Vittorio Emanuele for fantastic views. If you want to soak in the history, don’t miss the oldest Roman bridge and head towards the Jewish quarter to see Pons Fabricius.
Go to a museum
There are so many fantastic museums in Rome that you will be really spoiled for choice. Important museums like Musei Capitolini, Museo Nazionale Romano, Galleria Borghese, and the Vatican Museums are unmissable if it’s your first time in Rome and a perfect shelter if it starts raining.
Adding to the permanent collections, in many museums, you can also enjoy great temporary exhibitions that are often in place during Christmas time and beyond. Some of the best places to see temporary exhibitions are the Ara Pacis, Chiostro del Bramante, and Palazzo delle Esposizioni.
Check out our article on what to do in Rome when it rains!
Join the Christmas festivities
For Christmas in Rome, there will be holy functions in just about every church. The midnight Mass on the 24th and morning Mass on the 25th and 26th of December are the most important appointments but not the only ones.
The Vatican always has a range of initiatives you can attend, including the papal audiences and the Angelus prayer every Sunday.
Visit an ice skating rink
If you enjoy ice skating, you will be happy to know that in Rome there are several ice skating rinks open in winter, especially during the Christmas period.
One of the most popular is the one set up in the Auditorium Parco della Musica inside the Christmas village which, apart from the rink, hosts also a Christmas market and the house of Santa Klaus for children. The organizers of this rink hold free introduction courses to ice skating.
Every year in Rome in December they open ice rinks in different locations especially close to Christmas.
Go to a concert
December is a feast of concerts in Rome. Italian and international artists perform in places such as Palazzo dello Sport, Auditorium Parco della Musica, and Palalottomatica.
This year, on December 2022, these are some of the singers and bands lined up for a show:
- Queen on December 1st and 2nd at Auditorium Conciliazione (Via della Conciliazione 4)
- Alessandra Amoroso on December 2nd and 3rd at Palazzo dello Sport (Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1)
- Bryan Adams on December 6th at Palazzo dello Sport (Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1)
- Elio on December 8th at Teatro Brancaccio (Via Merulana 244)
- Max Pezzali on December 8th and 9th at Palazzo dello Sport (Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1)
- Simply Red on December 14th at Palalottomatica (Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1)
- Umberto Tozzi on December 14th at Teatro Brancaccio (Via Merulana 244)
- Claudio Baglioni on December 19th at Teatro dell’Opera (Piazza Beniamino Gigli)
- Noemi on December 19th at Auditorium Parco della Musica – Sala Sinopoli (Via Pietro de Coubertin 10)
- Alex Britti on December 20th at Auditorium Parco della Musica – Sala Sinopoli (Via Pietro de Coubertin 10)
- Edoardo Bennato on December 23rd at Auditorium Parco della Musica – Sala S. Cecilia (Via Pietro de Coubertin 10)
- Il Volo on December 23rd at Palazzo dello Sport (Piazzale Pier Luigi Nervi 1)
- Antonello Venditti on December 26th and 27th at Auditorium Parco della Musica – Sala S. Cecilia (Via Pietro de Coubertin 10).
Explore St. Peter’s Basilica and Square
The symbol of Christendom and one of the most important places in the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the best places to visit in Rome in December for both tourists and pilgrims. If you are a pilgrim, you can check out their schedules and join the religious functions and the celebrations when the Pope will appear.
A great site to visit within the Vatican right underneath St. Peter’s Basilica is the ancient necropolis right under the Renaissance church and where is the tomb of the Apostle. There are no functions here so it’s likely to be closed on the 25th and 26th of December, but if you manage to squeeze that into your itinerary, it will add incredible value to your trip.
Visit Rome’s Centro Storico
All neighborhoods of Rome are beautiful during Christmas, but the Centro Storico is truly fascinating. It’s here that you will find the best decorations installed to spruce up the main roads and back alleys. It’s all around the most famous tourist sites such as the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon where the winter festive ornaments and vibe will remind you of the Yule spirit at every step.
Take a stroll in Trastevere
Any time is a good time to stroll around the wonderful Trastevere neighborhood. Being December a festive month, the traditional vibe of Trastevere makes it a charming experience. Get lost in the maze of narrow alleys, enjoy window shopping around the small local boutiques and artisan workshops, eat some great gelato, and cross the bridges to the Jewish Ghetto.
Among the best places to visit in Trastevere is also the Botanic Gardens where you can enjoy some peace and green, many different species of plants, and historical landmarks.
Don’t miss our guide to the best restaurants in Trastevere!
For as beguiling as the Centro Storico will be, going offbeat in Rome is always a charming adventure, especially if it’s not your first trip and you have already seen the main landmarks. For example, you can visit underrated neighborhoods like Ostiense and Testaccio or quaint areas like the lovely Quartiere Coppedè in the Trieste district.
To explore a lesser-known side of Rome you can also visit places that are slightly out of the city center but still easy to reach by public transport. Some utterly fascinating options include Parco degli Acquedotti to know more about the history of the city’s ancient aqueducts or historical sites like Sant’Agnese Fuori le Mura complex where you can also visit early-Christian catacombs and see the wonderful mosaics of Santa Costanza mausoleum.
Take a food tour or cooking class
Eating and cooking are always a favorite in Italy. In December in Rome, you can book a food tour to sample local delicacies or a cooking class to learn to make the same specialties at home.
There are many experiences running all over the city. We joined a lovely evening food tour in Trastevere and a morning food tour in Testaccio. Both of them had great tastings combined with historical sightseeing and anecdotes.
If you wish to learn some cooking secrets and how to prepare some Italian dishes to surprise your friends and family back home, join a cooking class in Rome to have fun and enjoy plenty of tastings like the pasta-making class we took in Trastevere.
Check out our guide to the best food tours in Rome.
What to book ahead for Rome in December
Even though not as crowded as July and August, also December can be a pretty busy month with both domestic and international tourists.
- Hotels. It’s always a good idea to book your hotel in advance, but more so when it’s tourist season. Particularly if you come to Rome around Christmas time, booking your room ahead of time will help you find more and better options. When I travel, I always use Booking for my hotel reservations so I recommend this for Rome, too.
- Colosseum and Roman Forum. The Colosseum is one of the busiest landmarks in Rome the whole time, more so during the peak seasons like Christmas and the summer months. I suggest you book your ticket or tour before arriving in Italy as you can do so easily online. Check out here the best Colosseum tours or here to book a skip-the-line entry. The opening hours of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum in December are every day from 9 am to 4.30 pm. On December 25th, The Colosseum and the Roman Forum are closed.
- Vatican Museums. Around Christmas, the Vatican truly teems with tourists and pilgrims. Since the Vatican Museums are a very popular destination packed with history and artwork, booking ahead your entry or a private tour is highly recommended. To help you decide, check out our guide to the best Vatican tours or purchase a skip-the-line ticket here.
- Restaurants. Reserving a restaurant in Rome is recommended all year long, especially on the weekend and more in the city center, even though popular restaurants also in other neighborhoods can be very busy. Obviously, you don’t need to book your table before traveling, but once you are here, you can book from the day before if it’s for lunch or from the morning if it’s for dinner.
- Christmas Day lunch and dinner. If you wish to go to a fancy restaurant on December 25th, booking is mandatory, otherwise, you are likely not to find space whether it’s lunch or dinner. Call in advance also to make sure the restaurant is open.
- New Year’s Eve dinner. The dinner on New Year’s Eve is known as “cenone” and it’s an expensive, all-inclusive dinner that you can have in many restaurants in Rome. Here booking is required because places are limited. Not all places organize the cenone so call in advance to enquire who does and who doesn’t. This way, you can also choose which type of dinner you prefer.
What to pack for a trip to Rome in December
While there are some regulars to pack for Rome in any season, December can have its own packing list. Here are some of the essentials I suggest taking with you if you plan your trip to Rome in December.
- Umbrella. From November all the way to April, carrying a small, foldable umbrella in your bag or backpack in Rome is a good idea. In December in Rome, it doesn’t rain a lot, certainly every day, but it usually takes you by surprise so to avoid having to buy a low-quality one from a street vendor, better if you carry your own.
- Medicines. Even though not too cold, it’s still wintertime and flu season so whatever you are used to taking in these cases, be it aspirin or paracetamol, it’s a good idea to have it with you. Usually, these drugs are easily available from the counter without the need for a prescription, but if you also need antibiotics, it’s even more important that you carry them with you from home.
- Winter clothes. Some warm trousers, jumpers, and a jacket are something to include in your list when packing for Rome in December. More on what to wear is below.
- Travel backpack. A small backpack or a crossbody bag will help you carry safely your valuables and personal objects in Rome. Keep in mind that backpacks are not allowed in some landmarks including the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums so a crossbody bag, in this case, will be a better option.
- Reusable water bottle. This definitely applies to every season, especially in summer when it’s of utmost importance to remain hydrated. The ubiquitous presence of the nasoni fountains makes it easy to refill your bottle with fresh drinkable water.
Traveling in July or August? Don’t miss our tips on what to pack in Rome for summer.
What to wear in December in Rome
- Jumper or sweater. Unless you are German, you won’t want to wear a T-shirt or even a blouse in Rome in December. A jumper or a sweater is necessary, and most of the time you will also need a jacket on top.
- Cotton shirts. Long or short-sleeve cotton tops are very useful to wear layers. Since December is a bit in between fall and winter, sometimes it’s cold but sometimes it can get warm, especially around midday. Layering will save you from too much sweating or being unprepared for sudden temperature drops.
- Socks or tights. If you are wearing a skirt, stockings are needed in winter in Rome. In the evening, I would even suggest a warmer pair of tights. If you are wearing ankle boots or sneakers, a pair of cotton socks will be fine.
- Raincoat. In December in Rome, you might find rain and wind, so if you have room in your luggage, an easy-to-pack raincoat is a good option.
- Jacket or coat. Depending on your style, you will wear either a jacket or a coat, but you will find one of them necessary at the beginning of winter in Rome. It’s not unusual to remove the jacket during the hottest time of the day, let’s say between 1 and 3 pm, but apart from that, some coat or jacket is required in Rome in December.
- Winter shoes. Boots or ankle boots might be necessary if it rains, otherwise, a pair of winter sneakers is enough. You might want to pack at least two pairs of shoes in case one gets wet if it rains.
- Scarf. A scarf for me is mandatory since just about October, more so in December. It protects you from the humidity and occasional wind, alongside the decreasing temperatures.
- Hat. You might want to wear a warm hat in Rome in December, especially at night.
- Gloves. If you feel cold easily, gloves might be necessary for Rome in December, especially at night. Probably I wouldn’t wear them during the day because it’s not that cold. I’m quite sensitive to cold temperatures but I rarely wear gloves in winter in Italy and for sure not in Rome in December. If I wear gloves in Rome, it’s hardly before January or February.
Check out our full guide to what to wear in Rome in December.
Is December a good time to visit Rome?
December is a fantastic time to visit Rome. I’ve been less enamored of the summer heat these past few years, so I immediately welcome the beginning of fall and colder temperatures. As December is not too cold yet and the summer heat is long gone, it’s one of my favorite months in Rome.
The few rainy days and the very moderate showers won’t certainly put you off from visiting and exploring. In fact, most of the time you will find sunny days and crisp weather, so walking and sightseeing will be a pleasure.
Due to the imminent Christmas holidays, a local and traditional feel will permeate throughout the city, making your experience more authentic than what you can perceive in the summer months.
The beginning of December will be quieter than the end because it’s more preparation of the coming holidays. So you can expect a different adventure depending on when you travel. In the first part of the month, you will witness a more hectic routine, the groundwork for the Christmas festivities.
This entails sprucing up the streets and the shops’ windows, roasting chestnuts around the corner of the main piazzas, showcasing Christmas offers and promotions and preparing for the biggest sales of the year. Shopping streets will be busy mainly with locals darting back and forth to buy gifts and carry on with their daily life.
Towards the second half and even the last week of the month, Rome becomes busier with tourists and pilgrims who arrive to spend Christmas in Italy and join the religious celebrations in the Vatican. This is also the time when landmarks will be more crowded and lines longer.
Is the Vatican busy in December?
Very. That’s why if you are visiting Rome in December, booking ahead your ticket to the Vatican Museums is strongly recommended. Many tourists like to visit the Vatican in December, be it for religious reasons or sightseeing. Even religious tourists seize the occasion and book their Vatican Museums and Gardens tour.
Especially towards the end of the month of December and the nearing of Christmas, the city and the Vatican become busier. You will find larger crowds and queues both in St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums.
An easier way to reach early morning could be to book your hotel near the Vatican so you can avoid peak hours on public transport and getting stuck in traffic.
Is the Vatican open on Christmas?
The Vatican Museums are closed on the 25th and 26th of December, which are Christmas Day and Boxing Day (in Italy Saint Stephen’s Day).
The Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, however, is open and you can visit it except when there are religious functions.
Don’t miss our full guide to visiting the Vatican in Rome.
Is the Colosseum in Rome open on Christmas Day?
No, the Colosseum is closed on December 25th (Christmas Day) and on January 1st (New Year, the Italian “Capodanno”). It’s open from 9 am to 4.30 pm on Boxing Day, December 26th.
Does Rome have a Christmas market?
Rome has many Christmas markets. Many of the most famous Rome piazzas host a Christmas market, from Piazza Navona to Piazza Mazzini to Piazza Risorgimento. I have often found smaller markets in other squares such as Piazza della Chiesa Nuova along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.
On top of the stalls open only for the holidays, all the flea and food markets of Rome will have plenty of timely promotions and products specific for the winter and Christmas periods.